Meath Columban witnesses Papal visit to Myanmar

Just days after the Columban Missionaries at Dalgan Park celebrated the launch of their Centenary year, Fr Eamon Sheridan SSC witnessed, at first hand, the hope and joy of Pope Francis’s visit to Myanmar.

A native of Drogheda, Fr Sheridan works at a centre for alcohol and drug rehabilitation in Myitkyina in Kachin state in the North East of Myanmar.

“The Catholic community in Myanmar is tiny” Fr Sheridan said. “It is made up of 600,000 people in a population of 60 million. The visit of Pope Francis has been a wonderful boost to them. By coming here, the Pope certainly lived up to his call for the Church to go to the periphery.”

“I didn’t go to the capital city to see the Pope. I am living now in a Catholic-run rehab centre in the North East of Myanmar” Fr Sheridan explained.

“The Columbans worked in this area from 1936 until 1978 when they all had to leave. There are 40 young men here who are trying to recover from alcohol and drug addiction. The disease of addiction is an epidemic here. The ongoing conflict between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence army, poverty and the ready cheap availability of Heroin are some of the reasons for this epidemic. Approximately 50% of drug users are HIV positive.”

“In response the Church has set up this centre. It is a very basic place; there are no frills, finances are a constant problem. But God has supplied and the centre offers hope to people who previously were hopeless that they could ever get recovery.”

“Almost all of the clients in this centre are Catholic. Most are from poor backgrounds. Every day for months now we have been praying for the Pope.”

“As they were unable to go to Yangon, I decided to stay with them and watch the Pope’s visit on TV with them,” Fr Sheridan said.

He described the excitement as they gathered around the TV to watch the Papal Mass celebrated in Yangon.

“These young recovering addicts were so emotional that the Pope would come to Myanmar to pray for them. It was for me very moving to see their love for Pope Francis and their genuine joy that he is here. They feel that they are not forgotten.”

“While the international attention has been focused on the terrible plight of the Rohingha it is easy to forget that over 120,000 Kachin’s have been forced from their homes into internal refugee camps by the Burmese Military.”

“The hope of all people in Myanmar is for peace. Please pray that the prayer of the Pope and the People for peace will be realized. Please also pray for the young men in this centre that they may find freedom from the terrible prison that addiction is.”

Separately, Bishop Michael Smith wrote to two dioceses in Myanmar which has links with the Diocese of Meath, expressing his good wishes for the Papal visit.

Courtesy: Diocese of Meath